Google is Not Invincible
Search remains the company's only unequivocal hit.
June 7, 2013 - 2:00 pm
Over at FT, John Gapper is just being silly:
Who will stop Google?
My answer is: nobody, or not easily. Indeed, the best comparison for Google seems to me not Microsoft in the 1980s but General Electric in the late 19th century – the age of electrification. Like GE, Google is a multifaceted industrial enterprise riding a wave of technology with an uncanny ability not only to invent far-reaching products but also to produce them commercially.
Google still earns the vast bulk of its revenues by selling search-targeted ads. NTTAWWT, either — Google is the best at what it does.
But what are these other commercial products? Android? Google makes more money from searches on iOS than it does on Android. And after sinking $12 billion into Motorola trying to defend Android, it’s probably a net money-loser.
So what about Moto, aren’t they selling great Android phones for Google? Not really. Moto is an also-ran, and Samsung commands damn near every penny of profit in the market for Android-powered phones. Horace Dediu even did a study a while back that, thanks to Amazon and the weirdness of the cheap Chinese domestic market, Google’s ownership of Android is only about 60% of sales.
Google’s Nexus-branded tablets? Google won’t reveal its sales figures, so who knows. But Google not revealing its sales figures is hardly an encouraging sign.
Google Glass? That’s still in beta. And right now the market potential for $1,500 spy-wear with a reputation for creepiness and a three-hour battery life looks limited.
Google+? It’s no Facebook.
Google Office? Gmail? Fine products, but really just offshoots of Google’s search engine. They sell you to advertisers; they don’t sell anything to you. Again, NTTAWWT, but it’s a far cry from Gapper’s claim. Same story with Google Maps. It’s great technology — whose sole purpose is to collect your data and push ads at you.
Gapper is on firmer ground when he says that new-ish CEO Larry Page has tightened the company’s focus. He certainly has. But what Page hasn’t done is made Google a profitable player in much of anything outside of search.
He may well do so — he’s a smart man with a big vision and deep pockets. But he’s not there yet.